Post-Dispatch: Yes on 1

In the May 10 paper: 

If some Jefferson City lawmakers had their way, Missouri would change its nickname to the “Show-Me the Money State.” Despite multiple opportunities to tighten ethics laws and rein in their greediest colleagues, they’ve failed to act. A statewide ballot initiative will allow Missouri voters to do the job that legislators won’t.

If voters say yes to a proposed constitutional amendment destined for the November ballot, sweeping ethical reforms will become the law of the land. In a state that has among the loosest rules for ethical conduct, changes can’t come soon enough.

A bipartisan group called Clean Missouri has submitted more than 340,000 petition signatures calling for a slate of reforms. The collected signatures, far exceeding what’s required by law, still must be validated by Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft before the measure is officially placed on the ballot. The amendment would:

• Cap campaign contributions at $2,500 for state senators and $2,000 for state representatives;

• Place a $5 limit on the value of lobbyist gifts to lawmakers;

• Impose a two-year waiting period before former lawmakers and legislative employees can lobby current lawmakers;

• Establish a nonpartisan state demographer to help draw neutral legislative districts;

• Require that legislative records be open to the public.

These changes would help restore confidence in Missouri government and wash away the stink from abusive practices that have made state lawmakers the butt of ethics jokes. Voters elected Gov. Eric Greitens at least partly because of his promises to clean up state government. Instead, his all-out quest for “dark money” donations has turned him into the poster child of the show-me-the-money movement.

Candidates should earn votes the traditional way — by knocking on doors and meeting face-to-face with constituents, not by kowtowing to the special interest groups that help finance their campaigns. Lobbyists shouldn’t be able to buy influence with trips, drinks, dinners and gifts.

Voters deserve transparency. They have a right to know what is being done in their name, with their tax dollars.

It’s time to end the cozy system in which elective office becomes a steppingstone to a lobbying career. Former House Speaker Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill, didn’t even wait. He became a paid political consultant while still in office. Legislators should be serving their constituents while in office, not maneuvering for prospective clients to maximize their future career options.

And then there is the loathsome redistricting process that snarls both political parties as they try to draw maps that protect incumbents and keep the party label on legislative districts. Clean Missouri’s plan is for both parties to be involved in choosing an independent expert to draw competitive, balanced maps. That’s the best way to ensure fair representation.

Since lawmakers seem unable or unwilling to impose stricter ethical standards, it’s time for Missourians to do it for them.

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We. Did. It. Clean Missouri just submitted 346,956 signatures!

On Thursday, May 3, the Clean Missouri coalition submitted 346,956 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office in Jefferson City, more than enough to qualify the initiative petition for the November 2018 ballot! The constitutional amendment will increase integrity, transparency and accountability in state government.

Volunteers who have been part of the signature gathering effort gathered for the submission of more than 200 boxes of petitions with signatures, gathered by over 1600 volunteers and canvassers, from all 115 counties in Missouri.

This would not have been possible without the tireless volunteers, dedicated coalition members, and 24,449 donations from supporters!

Watch and share the video:

The Clean Missouri amendment will increase integrity, transparency and accountability in our state legislature. It will:

  • lower campaign contribution limits for state legislative candidates
  • eliminate almost all lobbyist gifts in the General Assembly
  • require politicians to wait two years before becoming lobbyists
  • require that legislative records be open to the public
  • ensure that neither political party is given an unfair advantage when new maps are drawn after the next census, by asking a nonpartisan expert to draw fair state legislative district maps, which would then be reviewed by a citizen commission

“Lobbyists and a small group of big donors have too much control over Missouri state government,” said Rev. Cassandra Gould of Jefferson City. “But it doesn’t have to be this way. We’re going to make our state government more transparent, limit the power of big money in our legislature, and make sure we can hold legislators accountable when they fail to act in the public’s interest.”

“Lobbyists reported giving more than $1 million in gifts to legislators of both parties last year, and almost $900,000 a year on average. That’s nuts!” said Laura Umphenour of Springfield. “No matter what party you believe in, this isn’t right.”

“We’re not waiting on the politicians and lobbyists to fix themselves,” said Jeff Jones, a fourth-generation farmer in Callaway County. “We can all see how big money drives the agenda in Jefferson City, and we’ve had enough.”

“We need a state government that is open and accountable one that puts people ahead of lobbyists, wealthy donors or partisan politics,” said Elizabeth Davidson of St. Louis County.

“We’ve got a bipartisan problem in Jefferson City, and Clean Missouri is a bipartisan solution,” said Martin Tennant of Kansas City. “I’m grateful we get to vote for it and pass it this November.”

“Year after year, political appointees draw district lines to help re-elect party insiders, even if they haven’t represented the best interests of their constituents,” said John Saxton of St. Louis, a former member of the St. Louis City Republican Central Committee. “Voters should be picking politicians, but it’s upside down right now: political insiders are picking their voters. This amendment will require that maps be crafted with clear, transparent criteria to ensure fair and competitive districts, and that a nonpartisan expert is part of the process. That’s a big reason I gathered signatures for Clean Missouri.”

“When we get big money out of state politics, we force candidates to earn our votes, debate the issues, and represent us — their constituents,” explained Khadijah Wilson of St. Louis. “Too often, the only people running for political office are the rich or well connected, or people who cave to special interests once they are elected. This amendment levels the playing field, making it easier for citizens to run for office. That is good for Missouri’s democracy, and we need more regular people looking out for us.”

“The Clean Missouri amendment will make sure legislators focus on important priorities, not what special interests and extremists want,” said former Republican state senator and current Lee’s Summit Councilmember Bob Johnson. “Voters should be able to hold politicians accountable in fair and competitive general elections. That’s why I was an early supporter of the effort, and will be voting yes on November 6.”

Signatures will now be counted and verified by local election authorities, and then the Clean Missouri amendment will be certified for the November 6, 2018 ballot.

Now it’s time to get the word out and win! To get help increase integrity, transparency, and accountability in government, visit http://www.cleanmissouri.org/volunteer.

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Without Reform, Lobbyist Gift Totals Keep Rising

The numbers are in, and 2017 was the worst year on record for lobbyist gifts. Last year, lobbyists reported giving $1,067,143.50 in gifts to Missouri legislators.

This means, the average total amount of gifts given by lobbyists since 2004 rises to $880,000. That’s almost a million dollars every year in free booze, expensive dinners, and fancy vacations.

But the worst part – we still don’t know who really took most of the gifts given due to a major loophole allowing lobbyists to report their gifts to ‘groups’ or ‘committees.’

But the worst part – we still don’t know who really took most of the gifts given due to a major loophole allowing lobbyists to report their gifts to ‘groups’ or ‘committees.’

But the worst part – we still don’t know who really took most of the gifts given due to a major loophole allowing lobbyists to report their gifts to ‘groups’ or ‘committees.’

We’re ready to create a government that works for voters, not special interest lobbyists and wealthy donors.


Are you?

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How to Create Fair and Competitive Elections

A recent article in WIRED magazine explains how simple math can be used to establish fair and competitive elections and how gerrymandering has helped engineer election results for incumbents for decades.

These unfair fights affect how we are governed and help majority-party incumbents coast to re-election term after term…Objective mathematical tools like the efficiency gap may be the only way to root out gerrymandering and keep our political battlefields in balance.

You don’t have to be a math major to know that the scales are tipped in Missouri (and have been for awhile) when it comes to our legislative districts. Having an impartial expert redraw district boundaries in Missouri will create a more level playing field for both parties and eliminate any unfair advantages one has over the other. The criteria will be clear and transparent—requiring open records of the data used to draw new maps—ensuring a fair process.

We think it’s time to make this happen. Voters deserve fair and competitive elections.

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My motivation

We caught up with Lyn, a volunteer collecting signatures with Missouri Jobs with Justice Voter Action. Read more below about why she’s involved in the Clean Missouri campaign.

Q: What drew you to the Clean Missouri campaign?

A: You know, I believe that campaign finance reform is absolutely necessary for restoring democracy in our state.

Q: How will the Clean Missouri initiative change the political landscape in our state?

A: My hope is the state legislature will be more responsive to the voters and act in their best interest instead of their largest campaign contributors.

Q: What’s the best thing about volunteering with Clean Missouri?

A: I’ve really been surprised by how enthusiastic most people are about signing the petition. So many folks thank us for the work we’re doing once they’ve signed. It really motivates me to keep volunteering and gathering signatures!

Q: Is there anything else you want to share about your experience?

A: I enjoy meeting the other volunteers! We all come from different walks of life and have different reasons to be a part of this campaign. It shows how important the Clean Missouri initiative is and why it’s so necessary for Missouri.

Now, it’s your turn.

Help us get big money out of Missouri politics — sign up to volunteer and join the Clean Missouri team today.

Here are the facts – The Clean Missouri amendment will:

  • lower campaign contribution limits for state legislative candidates
  • eliminate almost all lobbyist gifts
  • require politicians wait two years before becoming lobbyists
  • require that legislative records be open to the public
  • ensure that neither political party is given an unfair advantage when new maps are drawn after the next census, by asking a nonpartisan expert to draw fair legislative district maps, which would then be reviewed by a citizen commission
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A government that works for everyone

The Clean Missouri initiative seeks to increase integrity, accountability, and transparency in Missouri government. Lobbyist influence and gifts are a real problem with records showing that since 2004, there has been an average of $885,020 per year in lobbyist gift giving in Missouri.

All these gifts mean legislators are putting special interests and wealthy donors ahead of every day people.

This is not right. And Clean MIssouri is here to give power back to the people.

Here’s what a few folks have to say about why they’re a part of the Clean Missouri initiative:

“It’s time for everyone to have a say in who gets elected, instead of just big money donors.” – Cathy, Springfield

“This isn’t the way our government is supposed to work.” – Richard, St. Louis

“I don’t have $1,000,000, but I still want my legislators to listen to the issues that are important to me.” – Andy, St. Louis

“The opportunity to be directly involved in the democratic process is amazing.” – Erin, Springfield

“I’m tired of money driving our government, it should be the people.” – Libby, Kansas City

“I want a representative government.” – Sarah, Kansas City

“There’s a lot of money, and we need to put a stop to that.” – Victoria, Springfield

Tell us why you’re a part of the Clean Missouri initiative.

 

Share Your Story
 

Here are the facts – The Clean Missouri amendment will:

Lower campaign contribution limits for state legislative candidates
Eliminate almost all lobbyist gifts
Require politicians wait two years before becoming lobbyists
Require that legislative records be open to the public
Ensure that neither political party is given an unfair advantage when new maps are drawn after the next census, by asking a nonpartisan expert to draw fair legislative district maps, which would then be reviewed by a citizen commission

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GOP Sen. Rob Schaaf: “I will be doing all I can to support Clean Missouri”

This op-ed originally appeared in the Kansas City Star on November 3, 2017:

A Clean Missouri is a Free Missouri
By Rob Schaaf

Liberty. This is the core of what I, as a conservative, believe in and strive to defend. Our liberty has been hard-won, paid for with the blood of our forebears, and it can so easily slip away. We must defend it, continually holding the line against those who would undermine it.

Today, we face a crisis of liberty, with many of our liberties being eroded — our freedom of speech, our freedom to maintain our privacy, our freedom from excessive government intervention in our lives. But what should worry us most is erosion of the freedom which underpins all others: the freedom of self-government. For if we lose the freedom to govern ourselves — if the political system itself becomes corrupted and responds less and less to the will of the people — then all our other liberties will be vulnerable, and the power of the state will be abused.

What I have seen, in 15 years as a member of the General Assembly, is increasing corruption in our state government, and increasing detachment from the will of the people. More and more, lobbyists and special interests get their way. They buy results with gifts and donations, but, ultimately, it is Missourians who pay the price, with healthcare costs spiraling out of control, taxpayer dollars wasted on corporate welfare, and powerful interests from out-of-state increasingly determining how Missourians are governed.

The legislature could pass reforms that would fix this, but they won’t. Legislators have had many opportunities, but most lawmakers don’t want to change the political game when they are winning it. So it’s up to the citizens to set things right, and there now is an historic opportunity to do so. It’s called Clean Missouri.

Clean Missouri is a ballot initiative supported by reformers from across the political spectrum. We are currently gathering signatures to place it on the ballot in November 2018. If passed, this constitutional amendment would solve many of the problems corrupting our state government.

For example, Clean Missouri would eliminate almost all lobbyist gifts in the General Assembly, banning any single gift worth more than $5. Members of the General Assembly, together with their staff and families, have already accepted over $1 million this year in gifts from lobbyists. Most lawmakers deny that these gifts affect them — the free meals, the free drinks, the free vacations. But there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and that’s why lobbyists give the gifts: they know they’ll get something in return.

Also, Clean Missouri would require legislators and their staff to wait two years before becoming lobbyists after they leave the Capitol. That way, the people making our laws would no longer be looking to lobbyists as potential employers. To understand why this is important, consider this quote from the infamous ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff: “When we would become friendly with an office and they were important to us, and the chief of staff was a competent person, I would say or my staff would say to him or her at some point, ‘You know, when you’re done working on the Hill, we’d very much like you to consider coming to work for us.’ Now the moment I said that to them or any of our staff said that to ’em, that was it. We owned them. And what does that mean? Every request from our office, every request of our clients, everything that we want, they’re gonna do. And not only that, they’re gonna think of things we can’t think of to do.”

Clean Missouri would furthermore ensure that legislative district maps are drawn fairly after each census, rather than being drawn in such a way as to protect incumbents or to unjustly favor one party over the other. In other words, it would prohibit gerrymandering — what President Ronald Reagan called a “national scandal” and an “anti-democratic and un-American practice.” To do so, it would enforce an objective standard endorsed by numerous esteemed conservatives, among them Sens. John Danforth and Bob Dole and Govs. Arnold Schwarzenegger and John Kasich.

Clean Missouri contains other reforms as well. It would lower the contribution limits for legislative candidates. It would apply the Missouri Sunshine Law to legislative records and legislative meetings. And it would prohibit political fundraising on state property — for example, in the Missouri Capitol, where lawmakers should be focused on making laws, not asking lobbyists for money.

Clean Missouri is an expertly-drafted and well-vetted proposal. Among those who have vetted Clean Missouri are experts at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan organization run by Trevor Potter, former chairman of the Federal Election Commission. He was appointed to that post by President George H.W. Bush and has been described by the American Bar Association Journal as “hands-down one of the top lawyers in the country on the delicate intersection of politics, law and money.” On the subject of Clean Missouri and his organization’s support for the measure, he has written, “These common sense solutions would help ensure Missouri’s government reflects the will of its citizens.”

As Reagan once said in a speech commemorating the anniversary of D-Day: “Democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man.” Many have died for our democracy, and the least we can do to honor that is to preserve the democracy we have inherited. Right now, in Missouri, that means making sure Clean Missouri passes. We need to collect signatures to get it on the ballot. We need to defend against the misinformation campaign that will likely be waged against it. And we need to get out the vote next fall. During this final year I have in the General Assembly, I will be doing all I can to support Clean Missouri, and I hope you will consider joining me. You can learn more and sign up to help at cleanmissouri.org.

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Ethics Commission: Lobbyist Gifts in Missouri Now Exceed $1,000,000 for 2017

Lobbyist gift reports for January to August 2017 show that members of the Missouri General Assembly, their family members and their staff members now total  $1,001,249.88 for the year — with five months still to go.

The 2017 total for reported gifts is now the second-highest on record since 2004, the first year for which digital gift records are available from the Missouri Ethics Commission.

Year House Senate Group Total
2004 $124,169.18 $27,621.73 $822,777.41 $974,568.32
2005 $121,438.86 $46,188.79 $823,886.63 $991,514.28
2006 $130,518.74 $51,622.09 $823,909.48 $1,006,050.31
2007 $238,936.73 $82,006.16 $581,903.88 $902,846.77
2008 $214,720.10 $86,581.75 $621,931.94 $923,233.79
2009 $265,010.19 $114,100.03 $536,343.41 $915,453.63
2010 $243,514.30 $100,886.58 $508,716.20 $853,117.08
2011 $232,563.80 $117,482.22 $597,990.53 $948,036.55
2012 $223,114.15 $104,293.33 $540,691.04 $868,098.52
2013 $229,757.82 $113,090.48 $612,147.69 $954,995.99
2014 $188,888.63 $73,856.28 $587,820.60 $850,565.51
2015 $204,723.28 $76,725.73 $327,747.87 $609,196.88
2016 $174,382.20 $62,508.87 $284,252.01 $521,143.08
2017 $106,372.70 $47,068.54 $847,808.64 $1,001,249.88
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I Canvassed For the First Time and It Was Great

This past week I had the privilege to go out on my first canvass. To be honest, I went into it a little nervous. But after talking to the first few people and hearing what they had to say on ethics in Missouri, I settled in and had a wonderful time.

Here are just a few things that I took away from my first canvassing shift:

  • I shared my enthusiasm for making Missouri a better place with all of the people I met, and hopefully I convinced them to join us in calling for change;
  • I got to explore Kansas City, and saw parts of it I had yet to see;
  • I got to meet new people from all walks of life;
  • And I teamed up with nice, like-minded folks to canvass the area and spread the word about the CLEAN Missouri campaign.

So, if you are passionate about getting big money out of politics and are looking for a way to help, get out and canvass for signatures. You get the opportunity to make a difference and increase integrity, accountability, and transparency in our state government.

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Remember the three S’s.

We sat down with Melissa, a volunteer with Peace United Church of Christ in St. Louis, to talk about her experience as part of the Clean Missouri team, and some of her best tips for canvassing.

Q: Why are you a part of Clean Missouri?

A: There is so much craziness going on in Washington DC that I cannot do anything about. With Clean Missouri, I can get involved and have a real effect at the state and local level.

Q: What has surprised you most about this campaign?

A: How easy signature gathering is! Missourians are desperate to take action against the big money constantly flowing into our state. By signing the petition, people feel like they are doing something that affects them every day.

Q: What would Missouri look like if big donors didn’t run the show?

A: I think if these changes are implemented, it will make a huge difference. More people will come out and vote because they are more likely to feel like their vote matters. I also think candidates will have to think differently about how they run their campaigns. They’ll need to listen to the voices of their constituents and not the high dollar donors.

Q: What would you tell a first time volunteer?

A: Remember the three S’s: Step, Smile, Speak. I’ve never collected signatures for a petition before, and the Clean campaign provides lots of opportunities for training and practice. Everyone will have a different approach to gathering, you just have to figure out what works best for you.

Now, it’s your turn.

Help us get big money out of Missouri politics — sign up to volunteer and join the Clean Missouri team today.

Here are the facts – The Clean Missouri amendment will:

  • lower campaign contribution limits for state legislative candidates
  • eliminate almost all lobbyist gifts
  • require politicians wait two years before becoming lobbyists
  • require that legislative records be open to the public
  • ensure that neither political party is given an unfair advantage when new maps are drawn after the next census, by asking a nonpartisan expert to draw fair legislative district maps, which would then be reviewed by a citizen commission
READ MORE